VÖLVA (EN)

– Hello, thanks for taking your time, how are you holding up in these dystopian days?

Hi! We are good basically. Not much activity due to a major COVID-19 outbreak in our area, so it’s dull but we manage.

-First off; why, from that needs, did VÖLVA born? What were your goals on the band?

Völva was initiated by Joss and Jonna who both come from the punk scene but have always listened to black metal and felt the desire to express that side too but in their own way. They began rehearsing with some dude, then he left, and they found me. In the beginning I think we just wanted to make fast and aggressive music, with a vengeful feministic vibe, and see where that took us. Now I think we have some, perhaps not that apparent but nonetheless present, nuances in our newest material. Still vengeful though.

-And mandatory question: what’s the significance (and purpose) behind the band’s name?

A völva was an ancient Scandinavian female shaman who was said to be able to communicate with the spirit world. They were highly respectable members of society and there are some beliefs that the profession was inherited to her daughter(s). With the introduction of Shristianity to our part of Europe, their legacy was gravely decimated since women no longer had any particular important roles in the church. The few things that a völva might have done that survived via certain women and men that still knew about old rituals, herbs, etc. was later hammered down by the label “witchcraft” and the prosecutions during the 17th century. Since we are Scandinavians, this is our legacy and heritage. By taking the name Völva we channel the anger of our ancestors who were robbed of so many things in their lives.

-How would you describe what VÖLVA (music and beyond) is about to someone who has never heard of you before?

Like the screams from a thousand vengeful souls from the witch’s bonfire.

-“Promises Unfold as Lies” is your newest material. The tape has just been released after some delays due to the pandemic. Has the whole situation affected the band in any other way?

I think that it’s safe to say that all bands that up until spring 2020 were active, have been affected by the pandemic. We were booked for gigs in Copenhagen, festivals in Sweden, etc and had to cancel, but that’s life. Worse things can happen. As for right now, we are more or less hibernating.

-Deadbangers just put it out on cassette tape. Any plans for releases in other formats? And how did this cooperation with the label arise after having self-released your demo (even though it was released by a label in the US a while after it had come out)?

Nothing is decided regarding other formats, but we still haven’t shut that door. The cooperation with Deadbangers began quite immediately after we released our first demo. Ole found us, I don’t know how, bought a couple of tapes for his Mephisto Record store in Copenhagen, and mentioned that he was interested if we ever recorded something new. Regarding the US release of our first cassette, Jem’s label found us, again – I don’t know how – and asked if we were willing to let the label to do an US release. Both labels have treated us nice, so we have just gone along with it.

-I haven’t listened to this release yet. How would you compare it to your demo? In what way was your first recording important for the future/present of VÖLVA?

This release is a bit more nuanced. The first demo was more or less full speed ahead, from start to end. For this one both me and Jonna have polished our songwriting a bit, and in my opinion made the songs a bit more interesting. Let’s see if the public agrees with us on that.

-I’ve only listened to “While Bleeding”. It has Punk. It has some AURA NOIR. Some HELLHAMMER… What bands helped shape the sound of VÖLVA and motivated you to form a band into this style?

Photo by Gianluca La Bruna

I think that it’s only natural that our musical backgrounds shines through, but apart from Aura Noir and Hellhammer, I can mention Darkthrone, Burzum, early Mayhem, Driller Killer, as influences. It’s not as if we sit down and say “now we’re gonna write a song sounding like this or that band”. You have a sort of framework: it has to be aggressive and give an in-your-face feeling, it should be primitive and not too much fuss (tech wise), it has to be on a certain level as an arrangement, and so on and so forth. For me, when I sit down with my guitar and a riff starts to form, I can feel like “yes, this will work for Völva” and then I start to build more onto it. And when I have the major parts ready I take it to the others and we polish the final parts, which makes it a Völva song.

– Speaking of such, what women musicians have inspired you? Not just their body of work, but something in them; their attitude, their presence, their way of facing the world…

I remember when Liz Buckingham started playing for Electric Wizard, and I was around 20. Before that I had mainly seen female members in larger bands being replaced by male musicians, but with Liz it was the opposite, and that made a huge impression for me. I also remember listening a lot to Runemagick with Emma Rudolfsson on bass. Both of them seemed to capture what I then was looking for regarding females in metal: both were laid back and focused on just being musicians. In metal, I feel that it’s so easy to become a female cliché living up to male dreams. You can find all these vixen-like women, with custom leather studded outfits, fists in the air, etc. Don’t get me wrong, there are many of those who are really good at what they were doing, but I was after something that felt more genuine and less like a man-made costume to sell records. As for attitude, I have a soft spot for Lunachicks. I also love female grunge icons like Kat Bjelland. Nowadays it’s inspiring to see more and more female, non-binary and trans women taking their place in the scene without making an excuse for it. Erika Osterhout in Chthonic Deity, Marissa Martinez, Melissa Moore, Sisters of suffocation, Crypta, Nervosa, Nachtlieder…the list goes on and on.

-What emotions, feelings and ideas (lyrics aside) do you want your music to capture?

Anger and aggressiveness.

-All this about “Promises Unfold as Lies” being said; how would you describe it in just 3 words?

Unleashed female vengeance

-VÖLVA itself is pretty much a middle finger to the feminine norm and gender stereotypes I’d dare say. Is this your main “message”?

I don’t like to speak in terms of message. I don’t preach to anyone, I am just enormously pissed off that we have a world where basically anyone is a non-male is seen as some kind of exception, outlier, mystery or whatever, and that this is a spectrum of oppression found more or less everywhere. So if anyone wants to see us as a middle finger, when what we do is all natural for us, then that says more about them than us. 

-How does this idea fit in the current context of the Metal world?

I don’t really care about fitting in.

-And how do you, three women without corpsepaint, fit in the current context of Black Metal?

I don’t care about fitting in there either.

– I ask so because even though more and more people are taking a stand nowadays, in general terms today’s Metal “scene” seems to be quite narrow-minded. How important is for you to position yourself and proving that everything we do is political?

Not important at all. I don’t feel like proving that everything is political, even though I guess you can argue about that. I cannot speak for the others in Völva but for me, I can’t be in a band to prove a political point – then I’d join a party instead. I do however believe in making changes by just being visible, so in the best case society, by doing what we do in Völva and with all other female/trans/non-binary bands out there at the moment, we might awaken the desire to create something similar, better, etc in the youngsters which we’ll see an effect of in a couple of years. 

– I’d say you have a somehow «subculture» kind of ethos. In fact it seems your roots are closer to Punk even though musically you play a lot with Metal. Are you doing Metal from a Punk perspective?

It’s not like we are chefs looking at recipes and trying French cuisine one day even though we are better at Italian pasta dishes -both metal and punk are in our backbones in different doses, and it’s natural for us to express this.

-Being three angry women without corpsepaint is a message, a statement in itself. And the fact that you can be on stage and putting out music is an empowering tool, not just for yourself but for other women too. How do you take advantage of this tool/platform?

As I said before, I hope that we can plant the seed in some youngsters that will make them get up and start a band themselves.  I once wrote an article about females in metal (for an online zine, cannot remember its name though), and made an analogy to the Infinite monkey theorem. As it is now, there are still mostly male monkeys in the scene and hence, the masterpieces will most likely end up written by men. By adding more and more non-male monkeys to the scene, more and more masterpieces will be written by them. And if you really are after the actual music, and not the shallow clichés you should want this – more masterpieces.

-What would you say is (or are) the unresolved matter of the Metal world?

I wouldn’t say unresolved, but rather – there are old and fake attitudes that are still shaping the minds of the people. This overshadows the actual individuals, so that when someone enters the stage and happens to be e.g. a woman, most people will look at her as a woman and then a band member, as a contrast to when a man enters the stage – he will be looked upon as a band member only and no one will think “oh it’s a male band member”. Perhaps it’s naive to believe that we one day will have a scene when no one considers the gender of the musicians, but at least we can try to be more conscious about how we think about people based on it.

-And before we wrap this interview up; how can people get your new tape? And what are now your near-future plans? Even though I know these are very uncertain times.

So far, it’s only available physically via Deadbangers/Mephisto (https://www.deadbangers.com/) or digitally via our bandcamp (https://volva-bm.bandcamp.com/). We have no plans at the moment, and are just waiting for the local pandemic to calm down so that we can start to rehearse again. As soon as the world opens up for concerts again, we are game.

– That’s all from our side, thanks again for your time. If you’d like to add some final words, feel free to do it.

If 1,000 females hammered away at 1,000 guitars, bass and drums for any number of years, would one of them eventually produce A blaze in the northern sky?

Tania Giménez

Tania@queensofsteel.com

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